THE latest report cards are out from the state's leading think tanks, one of which is oriented toward market solutions to problems and the other oriented toward government solutions.
What the scoring from the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs and the Oklahoma Policy Institute have in common is the unflattering grades the state was given in several areas.
The OCPA cites an Education Week grade card giving Oklahoma a “D” for student performance and an American Legislative Exchange Council ranking that puts the state at 43rd among the 50 states in academics.
Meantime, the OPI cites a Corporation for Enterprise Development ranking that puts the state at 33rd in the ability of residents to build wealth and “fend off poverty.” One reason is that the state has poor rankings relative to most states in attainment of college degrees and in eighth-grade math and reading proficiency.
With all due respect to the advocacy groups and think tanks that do grading throughout the year, the report cards that matter the most are the ones issued for elementary and secondary school students. In that regard, if in no other, the right-leaning OCPA and the left-leaning OPI are in agreement: Education needs improvement.
How to get there, though, is where the roads diverge. One approach is increasing the options for nontraditional learning such as a private education funded at least partly with taxpayer dollars. This is the approach the OCPA favors. Its liberal counterpart urges instead more taxpayer funding of traditional public schools, particularly in high-poverty school districts.
The problem that many taxpayers have with this suggestion is that it hasn't paid off. Greater funding doesn't automatically lead to better results in the classroom. This is why the appeal remains strong to try something different, such as vouchers for private school tuition.